Politics, intrigues of the handshake
By Roselyne Obala and Allan Mungai
| March 9th 2021
The handshake intrigues deepened yesterday as a planned joint consultative meeting aborted.
Intrigues have emerged pitting associates of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM’s Raila Odinga, questioning the parties’ commitment to the Handshake and its nine-point agenda.
Senate Minority Leader Mutula Kilonzo Jnr yesterday told The Standard that there was no follow-up on the resolutions of February 24 that set today’s third anniversary of the Handshake to be a joint consultative meeting between MPs and county leaders on the BBI process.
‘’The party leaders’ meeting failed to co-opt the parliamentary leadership and that of the counties and there was no follow-up to firm up this date. From where we sit there is no meeting. We’ve not discussed it in the House and no one has received formal invite and as a result, senators have travelled out of town,” said Kilonzo Jnr, the Wiper Party vice-chair.
Today, as the country marks its third anniversary of the Uhuru-Raila deal that led to a ceasefire between the two archrivals after the disputed 2017 presidential polls, ODM is crying foul over what it sees as imminent betrayal.
Three days ago, Raila’s key allies - Siaya Senator James Orengo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo - made shocking revelations, alleging a “Harambee House cabal” plotting to edge Raila out and run away with the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) popularisation campaigns.
They singled out Interior Principal Secretary (PS) Karanja Kibicho, whom they accused of transferring the operations of the BBI secretariat from the defunct The National Alliance (TNA) offices along Dennis Pritt Road spearheaded by politicians to the Office of the President.
BBI co-chair Junet Mohamed corroborated the same, insisting that Kibicho should stay away from the political process and focus on his civic duties.
But even as uncertainty clouds the plans for the event today, Uhuru’s allies have downplayed any concerns, stressing that the Handshake was solid and BBI on the path to a referendum.
Raila’s allies have pointed an accusing finger at Uhuru’s lieutenants through civil servants for trying to hijack the BBI and install their preferred candidates in the 2022 presidential elections.
But outspoken Jubilee Vice Chair David Murathe affirmed in a tweet: “The president and Raila have always been clear about BBI that it’s not about 2022. It is not about the Handshake literally, it’s about the fruits of it.”
Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the reaction to the matters raised by Orengo and Otiende demonstrate people’s faith in the BBI and commitment to its success.
“Any time one is flying and there is turbulence, it doesn’t mean the plane is going to crash. Political weather has changed and it doesn’t mean BBI will collapse. It has gathered its own path, gone to Parliament and a referendum is on the way to give Kenyans a better future,” said Tuju.
A number of ODM’s top brass were holed up in closed-door meetings yesterday as their coalition partners ANC and Wiper released hard-hitting statements accusing ODM of betrayal.
Tuju dismissed ODM’s concerns about the operations of the secretariat as just a minor issue.
“A lot of people have called inquiring and wondering what is happening. It means they have put so much faith and their eyes are dilating wondering whether the plane is going down. People are passionate about BBI and Handshake,” he said.
National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya also dismissed any concerns of a simmering rift among the handshake proponents, guaranteeing that everything was okay.
“I think the matter has been overblown and taken out of context. The principals, President Kenyatta and Raila, have set the BBI tone at the top. They are still firmly committed to the process and have consistently advised that it should not be mixed with 2022 politics,” argued the Kipipiri MP yesterday.
“Any other comments by any of us, whether in Jubilee or ODM, on modalities are simply operational challenges for which there is a mechanism for resolving.”
Even though he declined to be drawn into the issue of alleged involvement of State in the Matungu March 4 by–election where ANC candidate Peter Nabulindo floored ODM’s David Were, he was categorical that nothing has changed to threaten the Handshake.
Junet said he was disappointed by the violence, bribery and voter intimidation in Matungu, where even the electoral officials were not spared.
“It is for the Matungu constituency people to judge whether the by-election was free and fair,” said Junet.
On calling out Kibicho and demanding that he stays clear of the BBI popularisation campaigns, Kimunya responded: “On the PS, I cannot comment for ODM, only they can. But the secretariat is fully operational.”
The Suna East MP said the Handshake was consummated into a nine-point agenda, which gave rise to the BBI. He added that Raila was committed to delivery of its objective despite interference by some top government officials.
“We have our own agenda. We cannot stop anyone from doing what they want on pushing others. We will be doing our thing,” he said.
But Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio, just like Kimunya, saw no big deal with the outburst of Orengo, Otiende and Junet.
“I don’t know if there is any problem, whether real or apparent. We can safely conclude that the concerns raised about the BBI and Handshake do not represent the interests of the principals,’’ said Poghisio.
The West Pokot senator said Uhuru and Raila have spoken openly about the matter and it was their choice to move forward.
“It’s like a storm in a tea cup. I believe Uhuru and Raila are in solidarity to ensure they deliver to Kenyans what they promised. What is being said is neither here nor there, unless the two leaders say there is confidence breached,” he maintained.
He added: “The two have not spoken yet; I think we cannot force them to deliberate on side issues. Their relationship is strong.”
Last month, after a three-hour session at State House, Uhuru, Raila and five other party leaders announced a joint consultative meeting today bringing together MPs and county leadership to discuss the BBI Bill before Parliament after the Assemblies passed it.
Those present were Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-K), Charity Ngilu (Narc) and Kanu’s Gideon Moi.
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